The other night Albert Pujols hit career home run number 536 to tie Mickey Mantle for 16th on MLB’s All-Time Home Run List. This is quite the accomplishment as Pujols continues his Hall-Of-Fame level career. I am not sure how many baseball fans noticed this feat. I am certain that regardless of how many home runs Albert Pujols hits, he won’t be remembered like Mantle still is, and that’s not his fault.
In an age when folks watch highlights of games on devices that fit in the webbing of a ball glove; and they go to games to be seen, instead of watching THE Game, many of these things escape us. When Mantle called it quits in 1969, his 536 career homers trailed only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays on the all-time list.
Maybe I am old school, or just boring, but I still love THE Game. I love to watch it. I love to listen to it. I love to be next to it. I love to teach it. I love coaching in it. I love learning from it. I love to talk about it. I love to listen to stories about THE Game, from eras past. I love being surprised by it, even after all of these years.
I saw Albert Pujols play during Spring Training his rookie year, and I distinctly remember being excited about how hard he hit the ball, and the sound that accompanied his balanced swing during that spring. He will hit more home runs, and soon Mike Schmidt (548 HR’s) will likely be passed. But, like Mantle in his era, Schmidt in his era, was THE Game’s attraction when he came to bat. Better yet, in order to witness such at bats, one had to be engaged in THE Game to do so, because you either had to be there, see it on live TV, or listen to it on the radio. There were only so many ways to be involved in THE Game, and each of them required action on our part, singularly engaging in THE Game, as it should be.
I have included a link here that connects to an article written about Mantle when he died. Feel free to read through it, and smile as you recall times and places you may have forgotten along life’s path. Because, for all of us fans of THE Game, nothing brings us back to times and places like the memories of the boys of summer playing the pastime while we let our every sense engage in those moments we all long for through the rest of out lives.